By Mike Edwards (auth.)
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Extra resources for Charlotte Brontë: The Novels
Villette is in large measure the account of the thawing of this icy narrator. Her emotions are brought to life by force, and chiefly by tragic force. During the course of the novel, she is made to pass through just such partings as enervate Polly in this extract; she has to suffer the pain and bitterness of loss; she must be thwarted in love; in the end, she may emerge refined. The pattern - disgracefully oversimplified here for the moment - is mediaeval in its structural simplicity. It may be interpreted, likewise in the mediaeval manner, on more than one level.
In jane Eyre and Villette in particular, but also in many individual scenes in Shirley - if not in the opening paragraphs there is psychological depth. The writing is so rich as to suggest much beyond what can be easily expressed. We feel much more about characters and their situations than we are told in so many words. All three novels inhabit more than one time-scale. The firstperson narrators are complex, both old and young at the same time, particularly in jane Eyre. In jane Eyre and Villette, there is tension between the inner and external worlds of the narrator.
Another point that links paragraph two with the novel as a whole is the comparison between the novel and a meal. The use of food imagery for the content of the novel foreshadows its pointed use in later events, and is highly appropriate to the immoderate habits of the entertainingly repellent curates who eat and drink their way through the novel. Let us turn our attention now to the second part of the extract. It is linked with the earlier paragraphs by the subject of the curacy, that evolution of the priesthood which is satirically described as a 'precious plant'.